Television addiction Essay

This essay has a total of 1617 words and 7 pages.

television addiction

Addicted to Television

The temptations that can disrupt human life are often caused by pure indulgences. That
which we most desire may ultimately harm and destroy us. For example, no one has to drink
alcohol. Realizing when a diversion has gotten out of control, such as alcohol, is one of
the greatest challenges of life. These excessive cravings do not necessarily involve
physical substances. Gambling can be compulsive, leading to great financial distress; sex
can become obsessive, often altering a persons mentality and behavior. However, one
activity is repeatedly over-looked. Most people admit to having a love-hate relationship
with it. It is America's most popular leisure past-time, the television. It is undeniably
the medium that attracts the most American attention. Numerous studies have been conducted
on the marvelous hold that the television has on its viewers. Percy Tannenbaum of the
University of California at Berkeley has written: "Among life's more embarrassing moments
have been countless occasions when I am engaged in conversation in a room while a TV set
is on, and I cannot for the life of me stop from periodically glancing over to the screen.
This occurs not only in dull conversations but during reasonably interesting ones just as
well." Is the television a means of innocent entertainment, or is it a medium that will
lead to the unavoidable addiction and dependency?

What is it about television that has such a hold on us? Scientists have been studying the
effects of television for decades, usually focusing on whether or not there was a direct
correlation between viewing violence and acting violent in real life. Less attention has
been paid to the basic allure of the small screen, the actual medium instead of what can
be viewed on its screen. Scientists who have studied television addiction have come to the
conclusion that it is real and affects many Americans without there knowledge. Substance
dependence can be characterized by criteria that include: spending a lot of time using the
substance; using it more often than one intends; thinking about reducing use or making
repeated efforts to reduce use; giving up important activities to use it; and exhibiting
withdrawal symptoms after stopping use. It does not necessarily mean that those who watch
television are immediately categorized as dependants; it is only for those that notice
that they should not be watching, yet find themselves unable to reduce their viewing.

What causes our profound interest in the television? The amount of time that people spend
watching television is astonishing. The average individual will devote three hours a day
to watch television. At this rate, a person who lives to be 75 would spend a total of nine
years in front of the television. Based on polls taken in 1992 and 1999, two out of five
adults and seven out of ten teenagers said they spend too much time in front of the
television; roughly 10 percent of the adults called themselves television addicts. To
study the physical and mental reactions to television, scientists have conducted
experiments monitoring brain waves, skin resistance and the heart rate of people watching
television. After analyzing the data, scientists discovered that people viewing television
reported feeling relaxed and passive. More relaxed than while reading a book. Studies have
also shown that the relaxation caused from watching ended once the television was
turned-off, but the feelings of passivity and lowered alertness continued. Viewers
reported having difficulty concentrating after viewing than before. After playing sports
or engaging in hobbies, people repot improvements in mood. After watching television,
people report that their moods are about the same or worse. One of the reasons that we are
so attracted to the television is our "orienting response". First described by Ivan Pavlov
in 1927,

" … the orienting response is our instinctive visual or auditory reaction to any sudden
or novel stimulus. It is part of our evolutionary heritage, a built in sensitivity to
movement and potential threats" (Kubey 77).

In 1986, Byron Reeves and his colleagues began their study on whether simple features of
television - cuts, edits, zooms, pans, sudden noised - activate the orienting response,
causing attention to be focused on the screen. By studying brain waves, the researchers
concluded that these features of television triggered involuntary responses causing the
viewer to become more involved in the program. The involuntary triggering of the orienting
response is the reason why viewers report their inability to take their eyes off the

Do heavy television viewers experience life differently than light viewers? Through
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